It’s been over a decade since I first discovered that even when Mommy Sez No you can still get your musical kicks from a trashy, crypt-cool beat combo souring airwaves with its self-soiled brand of “Spook ‘n’ Roll.”
From debut splatter platter, ‘Hotwaterburnbaby’, via the putrid poetry of follow-up, ‘Eeeeeeeeep!!!’, to the 2-4-5 Trioxin-addled new album, ‘The Dwellers Below’, the Saint Paul, Minnesota ghouls Mommy Sez No have traversed the gutters and gateways of the punk rock underground for so long that you’d probably be excused for thinking that this was a band destined to be stumbled across when lovingly fingering your wholly unfashionable physical media collection; the cobwebs blown from a disc or two decaying in the creepy corner labelled ‘Where Are They Now?’ But, no – this six-legged monstrosity (Jeff Arndt on guitar and vocals; Alex Smith on drums; Thomas White on bass) is back in the hunt; better, stronger, faster than it was before.
Okay, the enhancement might not be bionic, but it’s by some other ungodly advancement that finds the horror punk veterans kicking lumps out of the opposition with a thirteen-track (what else?!) long player that, actually, doesn’t play for that long given its frenetic pace, but oozes with a gooey, unexpected slap of, dare I say it, maturity.
Looking cooler-than-thou wearing its wraparound artwork skin courtesy of fellow Minnesota mayhem maker, artist Bill Hauser (creator of many a striking punk rock album cover), ‘The Dwellers Below’ takes the lowbrow splatter punk of Mommy Sez No out of the garage and into, well, at least the garage forecourt. With better production, better artwork, better just about everything to be honest, this is the band’s most accomplished work to date… but fear not horror punk purists, this record is still a wretched hive of scum and villainy.
From opening cut, ‘Take Me To The Hospital’, to the power ballad, ‘Maggots In Yer Guts’, via the chaos of ‘Hahahahahahaha’, Mommy Sez No is still as subtle as a killing spree and as manic as a final girl chase scene. The big difference is that the band doesn’t stumble at all throughout the entirety of this album.
Even when introducing more straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll strut to the tracklisting with the likes of ‘Lil Bit Of Voodoo’, ‘Rock And Roll Death Patrol’ and the alternate reality KISS riff-led ‘Uh Oh… I Think…’ the band still has that unnerving way of making the listener feel like they need a good wash after partaking in an auditory exercise; the songs to die for (possibly literally) rather than a diversion.
The aforementioned artwork may give off a sense of the post-apocalyptic (doesn’t everything these days?!) but the album still has a hoof or two in the band’s tried, tested, and tortured peculiar amalgam of straight-to-video horror and no-budget punk rock… except there is a budget these days, but that shouldn’t put you off; think the upgrade from The Evil Dead to Dead By Dawn – better everything, but with that same, fierce independent spirit. ‘The Dwellers Below’ is a crazed, ass-kicker of an album that will easily force its way into my Top Ten albums list of a crazy, asshole of a year. Recommended.
With a brand new box set ready for release we thought we’d catch up with Boys legend Matt Dangerfield and ask him about his time on Safari Records as we look back on the time the Boys went down to a four-piece and all things Safari. I also ask what’s next for one of the finest bands ever to come out of the United Kingdom.
How was it revisiting the Safari catalogue of releases? Did it bring back fond memories?
Yes it did. Best of all was listening to the “Hell” tracks because this is the first time that it’s sounded good on CD. CDs didn’t exist when the album was released, and later when the first CD version came out it sounded like over-compressed shit. All subsequent CD releases of “Hell” were copied from that CD so I feel sorry for anyone who bought any CD copies of “Hell” prior to this release.
Were there any songs from the ‘To Hell’ record that you have since revisited during remastering changed how you feel about them? I’ll admit I’ve not played the records for a while and when the news came through about the box set I have since given them a good listening to and there are parts of songs that jumped out at me that I feel I previously missed or had forgotten. Was this the same for you?
Very much so. For the reason I just mentioned, I couldn’t bring myself to listen to “Hell” on CD since the last century! So listening to it now for me is almost like hearing it for the first time and it all sounds fantastic from start to finish! We still usually include four of the songs in our live set: “Can’t Hurt a Memory”, “Terminal Love”, “See Ya Later” – and we use “Sabre Dance” as our intro music.
I loved reading your notes along with the specific song playing and was surprised to see you wrote lyrics on the way to the studio, and I chuckled at the thought of it happening due to studio time and schedules, etc did you not ever get worried you wouldn’t come up with anything? Out of this process what would you say were your best lyrics?
Well, that was mainly in the early days when we weren’t given much studio time and I was working on two or three songs at a time. But generally speaking, I’ve always responded well to deadlines and would often leave things until they really need to be done and then work like Hell. There’s nothing like a deadline to focus the mind.
Your notes for ‘Waiting For The Lady’ and the Beatles reference I hadn’t really put it together previously but ‘Independent Girl’ has a real Lennon feel to it. Some of the harmonies throughout ‘To Hell’ have a certain Lennon and McCartney feel is that fair? They were obviously an influence but more so that album (Not that The Beatles would have sounded like you guys they weren’t that good) 😉
Flattery will get you nowhere, but thanks anyway! The backing vocals on “Waiting for The Lady” in particular, were Beatles inspired. But we were inspired by lots of bands and all the music that we grew up within the 60s which was a great era for musical creativity and innovation.
Who Owns The ‘Junk’ tapes now? How complete was the ‘Junk’ album? How does the process go with masters? If you didn’t own them the label did but they didn’t own the songs did they? If they weren’t finished, Could you have gone away – changed a lyric here or a title there and released it anyway? How involved were you with the day to day business of the band and management and label?
The ‘Junk’ tapes are just the rough monitor mixes on cassette from Rockfield Studios that I took away with me to work on ideas, lyrics etc. with the intention that we would come back and complete the album there. But after NEMS didn’t pay the studio and Rockfield wouldn’t release the two-inch tapes, we finally lost our patience with NEMS and went on strike for a few months until they eventually let us go. Our manager, Ken Mewis, generally dealt with the label, promotion and tour bookings, but we took care of the creative and recording side of things.
How do you look back on the time spent On Safari!?
We had a great relationship with Safari, which was basically John Craig and Tony Edwards. Two great guys who did all the right things for us in terms of albums, tours etc and generally looked after us and gave us the freedom to be creative. What more can you ask for as a band?
I always loved the cover of ‘Boys Only’ whose idea was that?
The designer was John Gordon (I fished out the original vinyl copy to get that detail) who was responsible for the concept. All I remember that it was our longest and most tiring photo session ever and took a whole day to get all the necessary pics.
Going out as a four-piece was it ever not going to happen? Did you think around that time that the band was done? What about the recording process, how different was it?
It was different without Cas but we took it in our stride, I knew that the band wasn’t finished and it didn’t feel that much different playing live. Recording was as easy going as ever and John and myself were writing enough songs but we did have to work harder on the backing vocals and harmonies without Cas being there.
Would you say that John recording with Pete Stride made him a more confident writer and bandmember? He brings quite a bit to the table for Boys only and sings on quite a few. How did you decide who sang what? are there versions recorded say of ‘Monotony’ with you delivering a vocal and Duncan or was that never done? because you say he (Duncan) sang it live.
Yes, John had become more confident and also had become a better singer. As regards who sang what, I usually only sang the songs that I’d written or written with Cas, and Duncan usually sang John’s and a few Steel/Dangerfield songs that we thought would suit his voice. I think “Monotony” was only ever likely to be sung by John on record.
You got to record in some iconic studios such as Rockfield, Pye and Olympic were you aware of your surroundings at the time? Was there a favourite? or a particular song you look back on that you really nailed because of where you were. Rockfield had the toilet at the end of the hallway with a mic in the hall did you ever apply such techniques?
Yes, I was definitely chuffed to be using the same studios where some of my favourite tracks had been made. Rockfield/Dave Edmonds/Sabre Dance; Pye/The Kinks etc; Olympic/lots of Stones stuff etc. Rockfield was probably my favourite for its vibe because you also lived there and could totally concentrate on the recording. “Brickfield Nights” was definitely ‘nailed’ there.
When the band gets back to playing live is there a chance some of the more obscure tracks might creep into the set? You mention songs like ‘Little White Lifeline’ and its solo would sound great live.
We sometimes slip in a lesser known track. We do “Lifeline” at acoustic gigs sometimes but without the solo, because even straight after recording that solo, I was never able to play it again.
When you have writing credits say like on ‘Schoolgirls’ Cas yourself and John how do you decide who gets on the credits?
It’s usually decided on the spot – if anyone added anything of substance to the song they’d get credit.
Changing up songs like ‘Kamakaze’ in the style of VU for ‘Jap Junk’ whose idea was that and was this done on any other songs because it’s quite a departure the saxophone is great on the single mix
The minimalist drums were my idea of a tribute to the Velvets, who first opened my eyed to punk, and I think we’d always had it in mind to get a sax on the song.
How many more tapes might there be with the likes of ‘Cry Tomorrow’ on them? Fantastic stuff, maybe another acoustic album is on the cards with some of the rare tunes mixed with the more popular ones you did on the acoustic album. a live acoustic album recorded at Rebellion because a couple of acoustic sets were fantastic from the pubs almost acoustic stage and then the opera house were real highlights?
Well those tapes turned up out of the blue, so who knows what else might turn up. We may consider another acoustic album – it’s a lot easier to make than a full studio album, as is a live album.
The band always did great covers are there any you think would have really suited you guys? Any you worked on that never got recorded? The other side of it is other people covering The Boys. Who have you particularly admired any jump out as doing a great job or really getting what the song was about? Michael Monroe did jimmy Brown and it must always be great when Die Toten Hosen release a covers album and include a Boys Song.
I love Michael’s version of “Jimmy Brown”. I also like the Hosen’s versions of “First Time” and “Brickfield Nights”, and Nicky Sudden’s cover of “Independent Girl”.
The live album sounds fantastic, I’ve always liked the BBC sessions, from some of my favourite bands possibly, because the BBC always had great engineers and their sound recording was top notch and the live ones always sounded so good what are your thoughts on the live album?
Yes, it’s true those Beeb producers and sound engineers were very good and worked very quickly, which really suited us as we generally record fast. I remember that the BBC sound people always seemed to have beards, maybe it was a job requirement.
You illude to it not being your usual audience. The applause sounds great even after the ‘worm song’ their faces must have been a picture.
They were very polite.
I’ve mentioned it to Steve but it would be great to have these ‘Safari’ recordings as a vinyl set I wouldn’t need my glasses then for the booklet which is great to read your memories of each song. Did you ever keep diaries or is it just a sharp knack for remembering. What next for the Boys? Is there anything left in the archive or what about new material. ‘Punk Rock Menopause’ was such a great album is there going to be a follow-up?
We’d love to get them out on vinyl and a lot of our fans would love it so who knows?
“Anyone buying the Box Set directly from The Boys this month (September 2020) will be given a PDF document of Matt Dangerfield’s full Safari notes along with an unreleased 1979 demo of “New Guitar In Town”. For more information email The Boys at firstname.lastname@example.org“
Special thanks to Steve Metcalfe for always having The Boys corner and doing a sterling job keeping their flame alive and making running features on them such a pleasure.
Governess are a sleazy bunch of sexy sailors playing a glunky blend of all action rock n’ roll that would bring a tear of pride to the guy lined eyes of Johnny Thunders and Happy Tom. Hailing from Buffalo, NY in the late great USA, Governess share the balls of their mid-west neighbours and the guts of their NYC cousins. We had a word with guitar player Handsome Erik, an all American guy with an unhealthy love for UK 90’s indie bands.
Compete the following sentence “Governess sound like a cross between………..”
A cross between deathpunk, glam, and Scandi/action rock. Big riffs, flamboyant swagger, sick guitars, and one hand gripping your crotch. Our influences include Hanoi Rocks, NY Dolls, Turbonegro, The Hellacopters, and the Dead Boys, to name a few, and I think that comes out in our musical style.
It’s been 4 years single the debut album “Let Me Be Your Governess”. What have you guys been up to????
Writing songs, and hitting the road, mostly. Getting out there, grinding, playing shows has always been at the forefront of our minds. We didn’t really want four years to pass before putting out another record; it just kind of worked out that way. The luxury of taking that time gave us a lot of material to choose from – the best we have from the last four years!
You’ve just unleashed new tune “Grime Time” what’s the response been like?
Oh man, the response has been great! Choosing the first single is a tricky thing. We wanted to put a song out that gives the audience an idea of what the record sounds like, but we didn’t want to blow our load early and use the strongest tune(s). I think we made the right decision; the song rips, and there’s still plenty of gems on the record. Every lyric in that song is true, by the way. It’s about our best bud, and 6th Governess – “Grime Time,” Matt. Without blowing his head up too much, he’s become some sort of quasi-fabled legend. He travels with us, partying his ass off the whole time. Once he learned that we wrote a song about him, shit really popped off!
What can the world expect from the new album “Never Coming Home”?
Never Coming Home sounds HUGE. Don’t expect some weak-ass, lo-fi, art-punk crap that was recorded on an old mixtape, or something. There’s a lot of guitars, a lot of sing-a-longs, cool lyrics, and upbeat songs. No snoozers. It’s dark, it’s fast, and it’s loud. In a lot of ways, we feel like Let Me Be Your Governess was kind of like our Ass Cobra, and this new one is our Apocalypse Dudes moment. The band has evolved so much in four years.
Have you got a label lined up or will you set up your own label to get it out there?
We are currently doing everything ourselves, but we are definitely looking to shop this around and get label support.
What’s your plan, post-pandemic battle plan?
Staying in lock-down has everyone really dying to get out play shows. Once we’re able to do that again, we’ll be pounding the pavement hard. This pent up energy is going to make for some wild times ahead! We’re trying to get this record released, in physical form, by the end of the year/early 2021. We haven’t discussed an early digital release, but that’s a possibility as well.
Are there still any great undiscovered bands out there? Give your mates’ bands a push.
Absolutely! Punk’s not dead, it’s just down on the floor… Through the years, we’ve met some great bands, and have made some great friends. Without a doubt, the best band in our scene is Hot Blood, from Asbury Park, New Jersey. If you’re into hardcore punk, there’s no one doing it better. They have two guitar players that shred, their lyrics are on point, and their hooks are strong as fuck. In early 2019 they put out Fear of a Unified Public, and we’re still all talking about it! Another great Asbury band (now in Los Angeles) is The Battery Electric. These beautiful babies are the hardest working band in the business. 100% rock n roll, sweet hooks, and another Jersey guitar shredder! I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Rotten UK (Rochester, NY) and the Cheats (Pittsburgh, PA). Both bands are incredible and should be way bigger than they are. I hear the Hot Blood guys a Rotten boys don’t get along, though….
What five albums should no home be without?
I find it curious that you’re asking for five records, and it just so happens that those first five Oasis releases are pure fire! Coincidence??? For real though, my favorite bands/records change on a daily basis, depending on my mood, or what Kinks record I’m listening to at the moment, so this is a tough question. How about I tell you the five records that are getting the most spins in the Handsome household?
Greater Than Ever, by Baseball Furies – Buffalo punk legends. I discovered this record about two years ago, and its been in regular rotation since. I’m mad at myself for not discovering it sooner.
Off the Rails, by Gino and the Goons – I just discovered these guys too! Their entire catalog is great. I thought I was a huge Heartbreakers fan; these guys really love them, L U V!
Funhouse, by The Stooges – This record blows me away. It’s so loud, raw, and loose. Plus Ron Asheton is fucking MENTAL!!
Crystal Gazing Luck Amazing, by Compulsive Gamblers – I love that 60s vibe. The singer has a sweet voice, and that song Two Thieves always makes me want to cry. I DON’T THOUGH!!!!!
Algorithm & Blues, by The Good, the Bad, and the Zugly – Jesus Christ! What can I say? Its not only the best record of 2019, but it’s going in the Deathpunk Hall of Fame.
Governess are –
Robot Rob: Vocals & Bass
Handsome Erik: Lead Guitar
Fast Teddy Clarke: Lead Guitar
Jon Swayze: Rhythm Guitar
Matty Wild: Drums
Australian garage punk rockers MOOT have released their new EP ‘Cultural Treason’ via Riot Records. Cultural Treason is the first proper release from the band.
A collection of songs poking fun and inspecting what’s going on in the world today. It’s fast, chaotic and good fun would be the best way to describe this record as it blitzes round the genres of Punk and Garage Rock.
Cultural Treason is trashy garage punk rock and roll. Australia is easily caning the rest of the rock and roll world over the last couple of years and are churning out potential breakthrough acts left right and centre. A lot of the better ones are hedging their amps down the Garage sloppy punk n roll street. Moot are on of the contenders or they bloody-well should be
I Hate Hippies is MOOT’s summary of the modern phenomena of hipsters. The one that puts on the “I’m in touch with the earth and wellness” schtick, but really, it’s just mummy and daddy financing a self-absorbed arrogant hypocrite. ITs spat out as you’d expect.
‘1000 Words’ is old school punk and if you close your eyes you could imagine this was recorded in a rehearsal down the Roxy. There isn’t much finery going on in the control room and the band seem more intent on capturing the spirit of the music rather than keeping up with modern studio dynamics. ‘Sick Dog’ sounds like they just found an early pistols jam as they try to harness that Jonesy guitar riff.
Six tracks sounds like a great idea for a first release and knocking it on the head with the single ‘I Want TO Be Clint Eastwood’ has the feel of Dead Kennedys but not as rapid, unlike the record’s opener.
In the bands six years existence, they’ve played every dive bar in Australia and lived to tell the tale with a smile on their faces lyrics that tackle serious subjects as well as with a cheeky wink and who doesn’t want to be Clint Eastwood its about time someone wrote a tune worth playing twice about the Actor.
Well here it is kiddie winkies the ‘Best Of’ album of the year and probably any other year if it were a competition, which it isn’t. But if it were Mötochrist has won. From the artwork to the content and the cliche crammed melodies its an absolute steal at any price. If you haven’t already ordered your own copy why not?
Originally released as one of those Kickstarter campaigns many many moons ago (at least 18 months if I’m honest) and for it being a Greatest Hits compilation fuck knows why it’s taken so long but it doesn’t even matter because it’s Mötochrist and they Rock and that can do what they want simple as that!
I know there’s a certain irony of it being a Greatest Hits seeing as they’ve only ever released one single on vinyl proper oh ok So ‘I Don’t Ride Bitch’ was a single-sided No Balls creation and they did release a three-track CD Ep. and that was on No Balls and not many will have ordered it anyway but truth being known everything Mötochrist has released is the Greatest anyway even when they’re not on top form its still the Greatest and way better than 99.9% of other bands records. Oh, and the artwork is a stroke of genius front and centre – absolute stone-cold classic. I’m lucky being a fanboy I got mine signed even during COVID because if it wasn’t already obvious there’s no way any Virus is taking Mötochrist down not now not ever- they are indestructible
So Whats on this Greatest Hits then I hear you say through salivating chops. Well, the only downside is its just the one record and not a double album or better still boxed set with everything they’ve recorded on vinyl – Fingers crossed eh?
It starts as it does at the start of the ‘Greetings’ album with the glorious ‘Hang Em High’ and the total heaviness of those Guitars man it’s fucking awesome and the tone of Diamond and Vodka is immense. Catchy tune after catchy tune with cheeky lyrics and big riffs this compilation is a must-have don’t take yourself too seriously and let your hair down ‘The Fist’ is a beauty and from the bands decade-old ‘Corvette Summer’ album (man it seems like yesterday)
Then it’s back to those ‘Salt Flats’ for ‘Super Sonic Speed Machine’ but its not all full throttle as the laid back ‘Holiday’ steps up with its ‘Strip club’ staple groove and killer chorus. Of course, the tribute to ‘Evel’ is present as is Marc Diamond penned ‘Pretty Girls’. Then to close off the first half, side one is drinking anthem ‘We Came We Saw We Drank’ and its TV Eye tip of the hat to Iggy and boozing and a fine way to take us to half time.
Side two opens with a pair from ‘Corvette Summer’ before their last album ‘Chrome’ rears its devil horned head. I’m going through side two and by the time I hit ‘Hellbound’ and its wonderful lyrics of Shakespearian quality. I guess having self-awareness is a good thing and guys I think Hellbound is the only option so well done for embracing your final destination but as the final thirteenth track ‘I Don’t Ride Bitch’ plays out I realise there’s no room for the epic ‘Marc Diamond’ or ‘El Diablo’ uh what? oh, I see Pfew Volume One. It just wouldn’t be fair to overload this one so you’re forgiven.
In short, just buy this album if you don’t have a record player, well, this is your excuse to get one. A stone-cold winner of Greatest Hits album of the year and its only August for fucks sake!
Oh and to make this bad boy even more desirable (if that’s possible) my record came with a CD that features a whole heap of bands covering Mötochrist which is as we all know futile but worth a go and most definitely worth a listen from some pretty straight takes on classics and some that are well and truly fucked with oh and they have ‘Marc Diamond’ and ‘El Diablo’ so all not lost. Danny Christ!? Jesus wept I can’t stop looking at it and laughing.
Your waking up to the sad news that Walter Lure, who was guitarist in iconic NYC punk band The Heartbreakers, has died after battle with lung cancer and liver cancer. He was 71. Walter was diagnosed with liver and lung cancer in July 2020, which spread rapidly and he died from complications related to cancer at the age of 71, peacefully in the hospital, surrounded by family. He was very much loved and respected for all he contributed to the world of music. He will be dearly missed. He last played Rebellion festival here in the UK last Summer and continued to perform songs from the classic L.A.M.F. as well as his solo material. We’d like to send our best wishes to his family and close friends for their loss. Rest easy Walter.
Lure was the last surviving member of The Heartbreakers Walter leaves behind a lean but incredible musical legacy and will be missed by many. The perfect foil to Thunders onstage, Walter leaves behind the L.A.M.F album that spawned and influenced several generations of Rock and Rollers as well as a couple of classic solo records with the Waldos. I was lucky enough to interview him many years ago and he was engaging, charming, humble and funny and it was great to meet one of your heroes who deserved to be on the pedestal you put them on. Rest In Peace Walter Lure – Rock and Roll Legend.
As my learned colleague, Craggy waxed lyrically when he reviewed ‘Honked’ the first of these Anniversary albums from Diamond Dogs, I went on a journey down the Rock and ROll highway and played every Diamond Dogs album released and the overriding thought I had was – Damn this band was smoking hot when they got in that groove.
They were honking on the whole Faces early ’70s Stones vibe and they were killing it every time and the most important thing was they had the tunes to go with the swagger and if those five albums were my gift to the world I’d be so proud of my band and the songs we’d created. Its quite some collection and as the band aged like a good wine they changed taste but remained true to their roots and sound.
On reflection, it seems like yesterday the band were rolling into my small village and pitching up their amps in a restaurant at the rear of my local boozer on a Sunday night after having a show in the City cancelled they then proceeded to Rock the socks off the locals with a wonderful and impressive set. These sets are pressed on vinyl as well as CD and contain a plethora of bonus tracks (singles B Sides) to wrap up the tunes from that period in a perfect set.
As Your Greens Turn Brown: After the keys introduce the listener with a bit of ‘Bloodshot’ before kicking up a shitstorm in the shape of the fantastic no holds barred ‘Goodbye, Miss Jill’ even now it makes me smile a five-mile smile when the band kicks in and the harmonica starts honkin’.
The record ebbs and flows superbly with the highs being particularly high and when the band gets going man they sounded authentic and passionate. The lulls when they’d kickback. Their blend of Hammond and Rock and Roll overdrive mixed with a few horns stabs here and there is timeless. Let the good times roll on the ballsy ‘Hardhitter’ and then they can drop a few gears as they venture off into Small Faces territory via ‘Singing With The Alleycats’ it’s easy to see how these guys got gigs with Punk rockers like the Damned or Rockers like The Cult and Nazareth when you hear the raw ‘Bite Off’ with its too fast to live riff and with that variety in mind you pick up the flavour of just how talented a songwriter Sulo is and he lives these songs and wears them on his sleeve you can’t bluff Rock and Roll this good which is why he attracted the likes of Darrel Bath and Steve Klasson into the fold.
The band were comfortable letting go and cutting loose as they were doing the jig is up country-tinged ‘Anywhere Tonight’ as they were doing the whole Thin Lizzy duel guitar kick-off that had songs like ‘Boogie For Tanja’ being so effortlessly good. Then when they needed to turn down the lights they could glide into ‘Yesterdays Nymph’ in one fell swoop. When Sulo took the mood down he has a wonderful tone on his voice and as far as taking on the Brits doing the whole R&B thing there’s no contest Diamond Dogs were more consistent than a lot of their contemporaries churning out albums of exceptionally high quality and this bad boy is right up there with the best of them and when your B Sides are as good as your A-Sides you know you’re onto something.
Fifteen songs of exceptional quality its like they once said Too much is never enough! Bring on the next one and I’ll get me filled up on more trips down memory lane and promise myself to play these records more often they deserve it and so do you – Buy it!
In the wake of Coronavirus many albums being released are cited as “an album of the times” or “the soundtrack to lockdown”, yet most were written and recorded before lockdown was even a thing. It seems some musicians are just clued in to the right frequency for the times. One such band is Brighton folk heroes the Levellers.
Now, Levellers have been releasing “an album of the times” since their first album ‘A Weapon Called The Word’ was released on an unsuspecting world in 1990. Taking their name from the political movement, the band have always been outspoken with their left-wing political views and voicing change with their lyrics and in interviews.
They outgrew their humble, crusty beginnings, headlined Glastonbury in 1994 and even bothered the charts a few years later with the likes of ‘Just The One’ and ‘What A Beautiful Day’. The mid nineties saw the band go it alone, becoming independent with their own self-contained headquarters called The Metway. There they have their offices, where they run the fan club, it houses a rehearsal space and recording studio. And they continue to be self-sufficient to this day with their On The Fiddle record label.
While ‘Peace’ is their first new studio album in 8 years, the band has not been sitting on their laurels. 2008’s ‘We The Collective’ saw the band re-imagine an album of their songs acoustically, with an orchestra at Abbey Road. They continue to tour extensively and host their own Beautiful Days Festival. The recent deluxe vinyl reissues of their discography have kept fans content in the lead up to album number 11.
And album number 11 is a throwback to what the band does best. Produced by long time collaborator Sean Lakeman, ‘Peace’ sees the band in fine form, delivering the perfect mix of Celtic, guitar-driven anthems and folk-tinged balladry.
3 singles have whetted the fans appetites over the past months in lockdown. Opener and first single ‘Food Roof Family’ is an energised burst of noise, with driving bass and frantic fiddle and the same thought provoking lyricism that captures the same vibe as their early recordings. An instant anthem. With its retro keyboard refrain ‘Generation Fear’ sees a different, edgy direction. Still bold, brazen and relevant in 2020, it will surely become a future live favourite, guaranteed to get your inner crusty bouncing. ‘Calling Out’ sees guitarist Simon Friend take to the mic for a raspy tale of escaping the rat race. All 3 have their own merits but are very much Levellers in sound and feel.
Friend appears for lead vocals on several occasions, as he has done in the past. The emotive ‘Four Boys Lost’ is a sea shanty recalling the tragic tale of sailors lost at sea. ‘The Men Who Would Be King’ is raucous, punk fuelled noise-mongery, and for the first time he duets with singer Mark Chadwick on the marvellous ‘Albion and Phoenix’. The latter references the bands beginnings, Albion being a hill in Brighton and The Phoenix is the squat they used to hang out at. Full of choppy riffs and melodious fiddle, the juxtaposition of Chadwick and Friend’s vocals work perfectly on a song of reflection and sentimentality.
Elsewhere, the likes of Chadwick’s ‘Born That Way’ with its Clash-lite riff and fiddle refrain, along with Friend’s upbeat stomper ‘Our New Day’ show the more commercial mid-nineties Levellers along with the more poignant traditional laments of ‘Ghost In The Water’ and album closer ‘Our Future’.
Choc-a-bloc with their trademark observational lyricism and Celtic punk vibes, ‘Peace’ preaches a message of hope, which is nothing new for this band, but in these trying times the message seems just as relevant, if not more so than it was in the early nineties. They may be older, wiser and not the angry young punks they once were, but the Levellers still have something to say and in the current political and social climate, ‘Peace’ could well be the perfect soundtrack to our times.
The concert event will actually feature an equal mix of live performances and additional pre-recorded footage. Comedian Joe Sib, a former bandmate of Soto’s in 22 Jacks, will be the live on-air host.
In order to access the livestream, viewers will be required to make a donation to National Independent Talent Organization (NITO), a non-profit organization created in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis. NITO exists for the purpose of supporting local musicians and helping to keep live music venues operational. After production costs for the event, 100% of the proceeds will go to NITO.
Also scheduled to perform at this Southern California punk rock extravaganza are members of Adolescents, Bad Cop/Bad Cop, CH3, Death by Stereo, Left Alone, Manic Hispanic, Punk Rock Karaoke, Swingin’ Utters, and other surprise guests.
This will be the first concert celebrating Soto’s birthday. Soto (August 23, 1963 – June 27, 2018) was a multi-talented instrumentalist and founding member of the long-running SoCal punk bands Agent Orange (1979) and Adolescents (1980). During his lifelong career in rock ‘n’ roll, he was also a member of Legal Weapon, Joyride, Manic Hispanic, and the punk supergroup 22 Jacks. Soto fronted his own band, Steve Soto and the Twisted Hearts, and he also became a member of Punk Rock Karaoke. Soto died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 54 from natural causes.
Greg Antista, who released the well-received Shake, Stomp and Stumble album with his band The Lonely Streets in 2019, was a lifelong friend of Soto’s. In 1979, the two met in shop class at Troy High School in their native Fullerton, CA. “I had never thought about playing an instrument until punk rock exploded at my high school” Antista recalls. “I had members of Adolescents, Agent Orange, and Social Distortion as my schoolmates and they were all playing backyard parties and their first local club gigs. Being that close to the bands and music made many of us pick up guitars.” In 1990, Antista, Soto, and Adolescents drummer Sandy Hanson joined forces in Joyride, a pop-punk band that released two albums on Dr. Dream Records.
Antista’s bandmates in the Lonely Streets also shared close ties to Soto. In 1981-1982, guitarist Frank Agnew played with Soto in the Los Angeles band Legal Weapon, appearing together on the group’s Death of Innocence album. In the 1990s and 2000s, Lonely Streets bassist Warren Renfrow performed alongside Soto in the bands Manic Hispanic and 22 Jacks. The Lonely Streets’ lineup is completed by drummer Jorge E. Disguster, who while never having played in a band with Soto, has nevertheless shared many stages with the musician.
Sweden’s much-loved and well-travelled charismatic rock ‘n’ rollers Diamond Dogs have returned to the scene and they are bringing re-releases of their first 5 albums with them. Released through the Wild Kingdom record label, these 5 LPs cover the first 10 years of their existence, which began in 1993 with the album Honked.
Honked set the scene for the coming years for the Dogs. Headed by the singer/songwriter Sulo, the band would at various points involve musicians from a worldwide spectrum of spectacular and influential bands. Honked was big news in Sweden, and it pushed their boundaries far beyond Scandinavia, with single ‘Blue Eyes Shouldn’t Be Cryin’’ making its way onto MTV rotation, back when the M meant Music and not Money. It would see them tour all over the world with some of the biggest household names.
The album now has been repackaged as Honked (All Over Again) and includes three additional tracks in Lucille (Richard’s, not Kenny’s), Sweet Sister Sunrise and Big Bayou (originally by Swampwater and then covered extensively). Many years following its original release, Honked is still brimming with that delightful charm that has always been instilled in the Dogs’ music. Raunchy and swaggering, the Dogs’ music is unapologetically 70s inspired rock ‘n’ roll, rolling in a sweet mix of the Faces and the Stones. The song writing and the energy captured in the production ensure that it still stands up now.
The Diamond Dogs have always delivered this music in the best way possible – with honesty and charisma. If you like the Black Crowes or the Quireboys, and for some cruel reason the Diamond Dogs passed you by, diving into these 5 re-releases should set you straight. And there’s no better place to start than right at the beginning with Honked.